MELBOURNE is the game's finest ambush predator.
For long periods of Thursday night's 32-point victory over Port Adelaide, the reigning premier was made to bide its time. It absorbed pressure, it watched its foe do everything in its power to force an upset and then, when the time was right, it struck.
The 10.8 (68) to 4.12 (36) victory wasn't necessarily the Demons' best performance in recent memory. It was simply a good side doing what it had to do. The visitors barely got out of second gear at the Adelaide Oval, but they barely needed to.
Having gone well over 40 minutes without a goal in a scrappy and fragmented first half, Melbourne then rattled off five majors in the next 11 minutes to virtually put the contest to bed before the main break.
POWER v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats
James Harmes was among the goalkickers on his way to an impressive individual display that featured 23 disposals and two majors, while captain Max Gawn (25 disposals, 33 hitouts, 12 marks, six clearances, one goal) dined out in the ruck.
It was a striking, impressive way for the Demons to improve their record to 4-0. At the other end of the spectrum, it was the most frustrating and regrettable way for the Power to fall to 0-4 for the first time in 14 years.
Held goalless for nearly the first hour and a half of the contest, Port Adelaide was held to the lowest half-time score (0.5) and the joint seventh-lowest full-time score (4.12) in its history. It was listless, lamentable football.
The club's reigning Brownlow Medal winner Ollie Wines was substituted out of the game at half-time with nausea, while ruckman Scott Lycett nursed a sore shoulder for most of the night, but that was barely the start of the Power's problems.
Such was the state of affairs, Dan Houston's goal – which was Port Adelaide's first and remarkably came 22 minutes into the third quarter – was met with Bronx cheers from the Adelaide Oval crowd.
It did little to change the momentum of the match, either. Melbourne kicked three of four goals in the third term as the match drifted to its inevitable conclusion. Port Adelaide did kick late goals, but they did nothing but limit the damage on the scoreboard.
The Demons are purring. The Power can start panicking.
WINES BLOW ENDS HALF FROM HELL
Just when it couldn't get worse for Port Adelaide, its reigning Brownlow Medal winner Ollie Wines was substituted out of Thursday night's fixture at half-time due to a bout of nausea. The star midfielder had been held to just one kick in the first half, a period where Port Adelaide was held to the lowest half-time score – 0.5 (5) – in its history. The Power did have the chance to eventually break the deadlock right on the half-time buzzer when Todd Marshall marked 50m from goal, only for Zak Butters to give away an off-the-ball free kick for slinging Jake Bowey to the ground while he was lining up. It was a fitting way to end a disastrous hour of football for the hosts.
FOOTY'S BEST ONE-TWO PUNCH
Melbourne captain Max Gawn and his young counterpart Luke Jackson are hitting their straps. Together, they are now forming a daunting ruck combination that is just about unstoppable and almost certainly the best in the competition. Playing against an undersized Todd Marshall on Thursday night – with Scott Lycett hampered by a shoulder injury – they dominated. Gawn had 25 disposals, 33 hitouts, 12 marks, six clearances and a goal to stamp his name as the contest's most influential player. Jackson, who finished with 14 disposals, eight hitouts, six marks, six tackles and a goal, wasn't far behind.
ANOTHER POWER OUTAGE AT PORT
For the first time since 2008, and for just the second time since Port Adelaide entered the AFL, the club has started the year 0-4. It all but ends the side's quest to go one better than last season and finally qualify for another Grand Final. Inspiration from here is hard to come by for Ken Hinkley's side. Since it did enter the AFL back in 1997, only one team has made the finals from 0-4. That came in 2017, when Sydney did so despite a horror 0-6 start to the year. The chances of seeing the Power in September for a third consecutive season are fading more and more by the week.
PORT ADELAIDE 0.3 0.5 1.8 4.12 (36)
MELBOURNE 1.3 6.6 9.7 10.8 (68)
Port Adelaide: Motlop 2, Houston, Georgiades
Melbourne: Fritsch 3, Harmes 2, McDonald, Viney, Langdon, Gawn, Jackson
Port Adelaide: Burton, Bonner, Jonas, Bergman, Clurey
Melbourne: Gawn, Harmes, Jackson, Langdon, Petracca, Brayshaw, Jordon
Port Adelaide: McKenzie (knee) replaced in selected side by Bergman, Wines (nausea)
Port Adelaide: Dumont (replaced Wines)
Melbourne: Bedford (unused)